Psilocybin, Senate Race Highlight Harvard Year
President Pusey announced on May 27 that the Corporation had terminated the appointment of Richard Alpert as assistant professor of Clinical Psychology and of Education for giving halluginogenic drugs to an undergraduate in violation of an agreement with the University.
The dismissal, the first in Pusey's ten years at Harvard, climaxed more than a year of off-and-on controversey over the work of Alpert and an associate, Timothy Leary, Lecturer on Clinical Psychology, with psilocybin. (Leary was relieved of his teaching duties by the Corporation, and his salary suspended, for absenting himself from the University without permission.)
Psilocybin had first become an issue in March, 1962, when members of the Center for Research in Personality charged, at a closed meeting, that drug experiments were being conducted in an un-scientific and irresponsible manner. The upshot of the controversy was a pledge by Leary and Alpert not to give drugs to undergraduates--and a ruling by the Massachusetts Food and Drug Division that the drugs could be administered only in the presence of a physician.
The issue revived on November 26, when Dean Monro and Dr. Dana L. Farnsworth, Director of University Health Services, warned undergraduates in a letter to the CRIMSON to steer clear of the drugs on the grounds that they constitute a "serious hazard to the mental health and stability even of apparently normal persons."
Leary and Alpert disputed this contention in a letter to the CRIMSON December 10, calling the University position "conservative from the administrative point of view" but "reckless and inaccurate from the scientific."
But, commenting on the extraordinary dismissal of Alpert in a front-page editorial on May 28 the CRIMSON said that the University's action "should not be construed as an abridgement of academic freedom" because the University had reacted to "willful repudiation" of reasonable scientific and experimental safeguards.
"In firing Richard Alpert, Harvard has dissociated itself not only from flagrant dishonesty but also from behavior that is spreading infection throughout the academic community," the editorial said.
Psilocybin was the most dramatic, but not the only important news story to break in the University community in the academic year 1962-63.
The year began, as have most recent years at Harvard, with too many students. A total of 1216 freshmen, and over 3000 upperclassmen registered during the third week of September. The Class of 1966 contained 40 more students than the Dean's Office had planned for, as a result of an unusually high rate of acceptance among admitted students.
The opening of the academic year saw a new Dean of the Faculty in University Hall. Franklin L. Ford, professor of History, had been appointed by President Pusey in June to replace McGeorge Bundy.
Undergraduates and Faculty alike were soon caught up in the excitement of an election campaign that featured two Harvard graduates--Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy '54 and George Cabot Lodge '50--and a Harvard professor, H. Stuart Hughes, in the race for U.S. Senator.
While his opponents engaged in two televised debates on September 29 and October 10, Kennedy crisscrossed the state shaking hands and claiming that he could "do more for Massachusetts." On election day he buried Lodge by 250,000 votes, while Hughes, his campaign hurt by the Cuban crisis, polled just under 50,000.
It was also in October that Congress voted to repeal the disclaimer affidavit provision of the National Defense Education Act, thus ending a three-year fight on the part of President Pusey and the University. The Corporation voted November 5 to rejoin the loan program and Harvard began receiving NDEA funds in January.
Additional loan funds for students was one of several important events in the area of educational policy. Dean Ford announced on October 17 the appointment of a Faculty committee to review the General Education program and to "ask basic questions about the proper role of the American college at a time when the greater part of our students are going on to graduate and professional school." The ten-member group chaired by Paul M. Doty, professor of Chemistry, met regularly throughout the year and is expected to issue a report next fall.
The Faculty also approved on December 4 a sweeping revision of the provisions for an Honors degree in General Studies. The new legislation opens the CLGS to all seniors with the required number of honor grades, regardless of whether or not they plan to write a thesis--or whether they start one and do not finish it.
1962-63 was also the second straight year that a Harvard faculty member won the Nobel Prize for Medecine. The award was made October 18 to James D. Watson, professor of Biology, for his discovery, with two co-workers, of the molecular structure of DNA.
In November, the Metropolitan Transit Authority put up for sale its Bennett St. switching and storing yards, a 12-acre area across from Kirkland House that the University has long coveted as a site for a tenth House.
The University's proposal was almost $1 million under the $6,525,000 offer made by Boston realtor Samuel P. Coffman, but though final bids were opened in April the MTA Board of Trustees has so far refused to accept any of them. Difficulty in relocating the switching and storing facilities could delay the sale of the yards indefinately.
In a contest even more important than the battle for the MTA yards, Harvard beat Yale 14-6 on November 24, for the second year in a row. A CRIMSON extra announced the news ten seconds after the game was over.
A sort of climax to a semester of continuity and change came in President Pusey's Annual Report for 1961-62, delivered to the Board of Overseers January 14. Pusey reiterated Harvard's concern "for humane learning" in an age of growing concentration on science, research, and graduate education. He pointed to increased University expenditures in the humanities as evidence of this concern.